The other day my not-so-13-year old daughter asked me if she could set up a Twitter account.
This is the same girl who, last year, didn’t want a blog because she was not ready to espouse her voice in a public forum.
She eventually came around – much from peer pressure – and set up a Facebook account.
She loves it and spends the same considerable amount of time as her friends. She never tired of it. But something has clearly changed….
It wasn’t too long ago when everyone questioned the value of Twitter among teens.
Facebook was THE place. My friends are on Facebook… where else would I be?” “Twitter is for older people…not cool! “I don’t get it.”
Teens clearly do not and WILL not Tweet!
A report from Eloqua dated August, 2011 noted,
According to Pew Research users, only 8 percent of online teens use Twitter. Compared to the fact that 45 percent of online teens are on Facebook, that number is miniscule. If Twitter wants to keep growing, it needs to reach out to this key demographic. What can Twitter do to appeal to teens?
Teenagers hate Twitter. Despise it. Ridicule it. Known to spout “Oh look at me I’m old and I’m telling you what I’m doing all the time,” to their Moms that are on it. That type of thing.
She went on to say that teens see Twitter as “useless and unnecessary”. This is consistent with Pew’s Research that indicates that teens care more about their friends. These are their established connections – kids they see everyday. Kids need peer validation, not public validation. And Twitter is too public.
At the time this article was written, it proposed the following,
Twitter needs to let users have the ability to limit communication to specific groups of people. This would allow users to control whom they share information with so that users could have ‘quieter conversations’ with certain followers.
In a way, Twitter has established that: through hashtagging ie. siloed conversations based on a common event or topic. However, this continues to be amplified and is not exclusive to those actually tweeting the content.
Ironically, the following chart from Pew Research indicates that (at the time of the Eloqua article last summer) teen growth on Twitter had doubled from 8% to 16% since 2009. According to More Teens Jump over to Twitter, the deluge of adults, particularly parents, migrating to Facebook has made the platform less appealing to teens. This, coupled with increased privacy concerns, has made the move to Twitter easier for teens.
I had dinner with a former colleague who noticed a visible change in his teenager. The reason? Twitter is like BBM (BlackBerry’s undermarketed instant messaging service).
It’s a way to communicate to a small group of friends quickly and in small bursts. It removes the pressure to post on a Facebook wall where friends of friends may see it, not to mention Mom and Dad. In a sense, Twitter is the privacy from Facebook.
And while teens continue to opt for pseudonyms like “Angel385″ or “SydneySecond” to protect their identities, Twitter can embrace the anonymity that teens seek to express themselves without pressure and to follow and connect with others that our outside their peer-norm.
I sat down with my daughter to ask why she wanted to be on Twitter. She clearly stated that she was uncomfortable with me seeing her Facebook posts, and the notification emails. As much as I trust her, she says that she wants to have some privacy with her own friends.
Texting only allows her to speak to one friend at a time. Twitter is a faster conversation that can’t be done on Facebook, and can’t be afforded under our current phone plan. Ultimately, Twitter will become her safe haven from the pressures of the people she chooses not to communicate with but provides her with the option to voice her opinion if and when she wishes.
I accept that the internet is public and much of what we share will remain public for the most part. The insight I’ve received from this increasing phenomenon tells me that this will not always be the case. The teens of today will pave the way and direct how we cultivate and evolve communications.
I’ll be interested to see how social will morph in the next decade.
image: Rosaura Ochoa